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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

One to Watch, Kate Stayman-London: A Review

I've been reading a lot of socially charged books with heavy subject matter and serious issues, so I was delighted to be approved for One to Watch, which, by its amazing cover and fun blurb, I couldn't wait to start.

Bea is a plus-size fashion blogger recovering from a broken heart when she agrees to star as the first plus-size contestant on a Bachelorette-esque reality show. In doing so, however, Bea realizes she'll have to confront all of her insecurities (as well as relentlessly cruel trolls in front of millions of viewers, and while she's not expecting to find love, a few of the twenty-five eligible bachelors surprise her, drawing her into a journey of self-discovery, healing, and *maybe* a new beginning. Right off the bat, I loved this book. I was surprised by how much I love this book. I am not a romantic reader. I've never watched The Bachelor. Give me horror, serial killers, and haunted houses--that's my wheel house. In my own writing, I rarely explore the lighter side of romantic relationships, and I can't remember the last time I saw a new rom-com (although, admittedly, I will watch How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days any time it's on). BUT. I devoured every page of One to Watch with gusto. Part of it was Stayman-London's writing style and structure. Interspersed with Slack channel discussion, text exchanges, interview transcriptions, blog entries, Insta comments, and TMZ articles, it was so much fun to get a realistic impression of what this would be like out of the narrative realm. Anyone who follows plus-size bloggers or Insta models is familiar with the criticism. If it's not a bashing over supposed health concerns or fetishism of the body, it's violent or offensive or downright lude. Ashley Graham, for example, a Sports Illustrated Cover Girl, receives the most disgusting comments, people critiquing and shaming her body, held to some impossible beauty standard. Bea is no different, and getting a taste of what it would be like for her to star in such a mainstream spotlight gave her vulnerability and an authentic voice I loved. In some ways, this is one of the most personal reviews I've written, as many of Bea's insecurities and hardships could've been taken from my own life. Growing up, I could never share clothes with my friends or shop at the hottest stores. I compared myself to thinner women. I had similar internalized beliefs about the correlation between thinness and beauty. Hell, even when I started working out, I became obsessed with the scale. It didn't matter how I felt in the clothes--and boy, do I love fashion--what mattered was how other people saw me, and that is something Bea struggles with in relatable detail. Another thing I really loved about Bea was her interactions with Marin, Lauren, and Allison. Yes, she does physically compare herself to them, but she also doesn't let it be a competition. She doesn't break others down to make herself feel better. She's confident and poised and makes herself open to their feedback, trusting them with her inner bad thoughts and worst feelings about herself. This is so rare in a friendship, and in a book about female friendships, and if I fell in love with anyone, it was them. And also Asher, but I digress. If this is ever turned into a Netflix series, I have two words: MANNY JACINTO. As for the romance, there is no short supply, and while there were several cheesy, predictable lines, and I wasn't thrown by the conclusion, I swooned. The supporting cast of male characters is well developed and hilarious. Her brothers are gems. I'd read an entire book of their text snippets any day. And I wasn't disappointed with the bachelor lineup. I enjoyed her conflict over her to choose and why, and what it meant in terms of her own self respect and worth. As an end note, I will say that you do not have to be plus size to relate to Bea. She struggles with so many relevant issues that every woman struggles with that it's impossible not to find something of yourself in her (or her friends, for that matter). Overall, One to Watch *IS* one to watch. Hilarious, honest, and charming, Bea's journey to love is one you don't want to miss. Big thanks to Random House and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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